Detroit Tigers: Numbers to Retire

The Detroit Tigers have been in the MLB for over 110 years. They are part of an elite group of teams that includes the Chicago White Sox, Philadelphia Phillies, Pittsburgh Pirates, and St. Louis Cardinals for the oldest continually used names in baseball. The Tigers have been in business for 12 years more than the New York Yankees and 3 more than the Chicago Cubs. But, despite the Tigers lengthy and fascinating history, there are only six retired numbers (not including Jackie Robinson‘s 42.) It is time to retire more.

Aug 9, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander (35) pitches in the first inning against the Boston Red Sox at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There are technically six players, one manager, and one broadcaster that are recognized in the outfield at Comerica Park. Ty Cobb was the first, but he played prior to the time players wore numbers on their jerseys. The others include Hank Greenberg, Hal Newhouser, Al Kaline,  Charlie Gehringer, and Willie Horton. Sparky Anderson‘s number 11 is recognized and so is Ernie Harwell. By comparison, the White Sox have ten players’ number retired and the Cardinals have thirteen. Of course, the Yankees have the most retired numbers with 22 and many expect to see a Derek Jeter added to the list soon, removing all of the numbers between and 1 and 10 as options for players with the pinstripes. It has been long enough of a drought for retired Tigers.

Greenberg and Gehringer were on the 1935 World Series team. Greenberg and Newhouser were on the team when they won the 1945 World Series. Kaline and Horton played in the 1968 World Series team. Sparky Anderson managed the 1984 World Series team. There are no players from the 1984 team on the walls at Comerica. The time to add a player or two is now. 

With the exception of Horton, all of the players who are recognized on left field are members of the Hall of Fame. As of publishing, no players from the 1984 team have been voted in, despite many of them receiving nominations. This is the last year that Alan Trammell has eligibility and Jack Morris will soon be eligible to be voted in by the Veterans. Morris did not play his entire career with the Tigers, so retiring his number is not as important as players like Trammell and Whitaker who played as Tigers for 20 years and 19 years respectively. Through their careers as Tigers, Whitaker earned a 67.1 WAR as a batter and Trammell’s WAR was 62.4. These numbers are inspirational and should be enough to place numbers 1 and 3 on the left field wall.

Many are expecting two other numbers to be retired, but it will be quite some time before it happens. Most fans expect that number 24 will show up on the wall. Once Miguel Cabrera earned his Triple Crown his spot was practically a given. The other expected number is 35. His pitching Triple Crown should earn him a spot in left field, too. As a batter, Cabrera’s WAR is 72.1 through his career. Verlander has a 43.9 as a pitcher. As a comparison, Newhouser’s career WAR is 60.4. Verlander’s spot is not as certain as Cabrera’s; a stellar 2016 and a World Series title would do it for JV.